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David and Jonathan
by James Vasquez
His love was sweeter far to me,
Than that of woman fair,
Though firmly to my bosom held,
With scent of perfumed hair,
And stronger was his love for me,
Through times of trial and tears,
Than brothers' raised in father's house,
Throughout my youthful years.
And when a man, great victories,
My glory loud acclaimed,
All Israel then accorded me,
A name revered and famed.
But yet within the land was one,
Whose name was seldom cheered,
Who walked aright with God and man,
And nothing scorned or feared.
I speak of noble Jonathan,
Of Saul the first-born son,
His like so rarely found in men,
And 'mongst my kindred, none.
Were I to chance comparison,
Between his deeds and mine,
The things I've done would suffer much,
Appearing in decline.
And though to Israel's throne the heir,
It mattered not to him,
That in the streets his name might sound,
His feats the children limn.
For he quite willingly forsook,
Pretensions to the throne,
That I, instead, should there ascend,
And Israel's scepter own.
He asked no more of me than this,
When finally I was king,
To kindly treat his family,
A noble, worthy thing!
But quite displeased was Saul for this,
His son's indifferent way,
He thought, as heir, that Jonathan,
Should covet Israel's sway.
And learning that he championed me,
To rule one day instead,
With spear in hand this Saul procured,
To leave his son quite dead.
And much the same occurred when I,
With harp some melody,
Did gaily strum in hopes his soul,
Might somewhat calmer be.
For had my eye not caught the spear,
As toward my heart it flew,
My life had ended on the spot,
When it then passed me through.
Now one in spirit we became,
And this to ratify,
A solemn covenant we made,
Young Jonathan and I.
His tunic, then he gave to me,
His sword and bow and belt,
And these were but the smallest signs,
Of all the love he felt.
And often was I warned when Saul,
In wrath my presence sought,
That he might finally take my life,
Unkindly, as he thought.
And once or twice I did appear,
At Jonathan's request,
Before the king that enmity,
Between us should find rest.
But in the end 'twas not to be,
'Gainst me his heart was set,
He saw me as an enemy,
And to his line a threat.
And thus the hour arrived when he,
This monarch's noble heir,
Advised me that I flee the place,
My days were finished there.
He shot three arrows high and far,
And to his servant said,
"Have not they flown beyond you, lad?
Now search again," he pled.
And this was meant for my own ears,
As we had then agreed,
And indicated that my life,
Was much at risk, indeed.
And out from hiding then I came,
And bowing low before,
This prince, this friend whose selfless love,
Would ever grace our lore,
I wept as seldom I had wept,
And then embracing, we,
Renewed our pledge of friendship 'mongst,
Our distant progeny.
And on that day I parted from,
My hostile, regal host,
But daily seeing Jonathan,
Was what I missed the most.
To desert lands I then returned,
A vagabond, at best,
My life in constant jeopardy,
And food my daily quest.
And even there this loyal friend,
My whereabouts explored,
In hopes to strengthen my resolve,
And finding me, implored,
That I my fears forsake since God,
Had chosen me to reign,
And Saul's designs to bring me harm,
Would ever be in vain.
"My father knows it is your place,
To sit upon the throne,
For by his disobedience,
The seeds of wrath were sown."
And then young Jonathan did speak,
Those words I can't forget,
Though mem'ries oft are blurred or gone,
They have not faded yet,
"And when your rightful place you take,
As ruler in the land,
What honor, mine, to serve you well,
As second in command!"
At this my soul was overcome,
A kingdom would he lose,
While doubting not with second thoughts,
Nor pleading time to muse.
What merit e'er was mine that love,
So constant, pure and deep,
Should thus enfold my fortunes or,
Its harvest I should reap?
Has greater love to any man,
Since life he first did see,
E'er found itself so richly giv'n,
As Jonathan's to me?
Now tell it not in Gath that he,
Who Israel's standard bore,
Has fallen on Gilboa's slopes,
This man of love and war.
And let it not in Ashkelon,
Be published well abroad,
Lest damsels gay, with tambourine,
His tragic end applaud.
His bow turned not from any foe,
His spear it slackened not,
And stronger than the lion he,
The wretched battle fought.
And silent now his sword and shield,
Bear witness clear to this,
The worthiest among us, too,
Are called to the Abyss.
Oh, Jonathan! Your love to me,
Has perished not nor fled,
And daily to its boundless fount,
My soul is ever led.
from the July 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine